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Urban Oasis

Precise yet serene, the design of this Memorial area modern residence was inspired by its globe-trotting owners.

The house’s concrete tilt wall structural system allows for large expanses inside and out with minimal interruptions. Outdoor furniture from Design Within Reach.

Harmony is perhaps the most befitting moniker for Erica and Patrick King’s modern expanse of a home in Houston’s prestigious Memorial neighborhood. Serene and built-to-last also come to mind. These terms could also portray the couple themselves, who, despite the challenges of building a home, clearly remain in sync. They’ve had some practice. Patrick’s career as an energy executive prompted 11 moves together, including a few “within weeks of unpacking,” says Erica, which also bolstered their confidence to craft a modern private oasis in an area historically populated with French, Georgian and Mediterranean mansions. “In the past, we’ve had homes which were more generic, very traditional or more vanilla to appeal to most people, in case we needed to sell and move,” says Erica. “Here, we’ve been able to show our personalities.”

Patrick is a California native drawn to minimalist spaces while Erica, raised near New Orleans, appreciates beauty and functionality. The resulting home is a study in clarity and precision. From the wet room behind the saltwater aquarium, to the unobstructed views of the Koi pond, to the exterior’s honed blue stone that transitions seamlessly into polished stone inside, every element is unified by appreciation and thought. It’s also how they live. “We may go to only one concert a year but we get the best seats in the house,” says Erica. And when it came to designing their latest home, “We were willing to sacrifice size for quality,” she adds. And yet, there is nothing diminutive about the 5,680-square-foot home perched on 2-plus acres of prime real estate on Memorial Drive. Ivy League grads Chuong and Chung Nguyen of Houston’s MC2 Architects were immediately on-board with the scaled-down approach. “We were excited about this attitude of quality of the space rather than size,” says Chung. “There is often an emphasis on amenities or products and the shell of the space isn’t as good or durable.”

The award-winning Nguyens are known for commercial projects such as Houston’s Triniti restaurant and for their innovative contemporary concepts anchored in tilt-up or tilt-wall construction, a building process that pre-casts concrete wall sections before lifting them onto a foundation. The age-old process was modernized prior to WWI by a Camp Logan colonel in Michigan, says Chung, who came up with the idea to prevent bullets rocketing through the wood firing range onto Lake Michigan boaters. “It was fascinating to watch,” says Patrick. “I really appreciate how sturdily our home was built.”

And while this type of construction adds as much as 50 percent onto the cost per square foot, the results are impenetrable walls with 6 inches of reinforced concrete. Solar panels are hidden discreetly on the roof, LED lighting and spray foam insulation function peaceably with the steel, glass and concrete footprint. Sleeping quarters reside on one side of the house. The master opens to views of a garden and lap pool, while the second floor houses two additional bedrooms, an office, media room and fitness area. The living, dining and entertaining areas combine into one voluminous expanse bounded by water. A glass bridge transports the breezeway into a summer kitchen propped by a massive blue stone mosaic and outdoor shower.

For the interiors, the couple drew on their experiences living overseas, where the dark wood floors of their London penthouse inspired the flooring of their Houston dream house. “I wanted to define the palette with dark floors and white walls,” says Patrick. “I told Erica how ever she wanted to adorn it was fine with me as long as I had veto power.”

Guided by alabaster and volcanic rock hues, Erica coaxed texture and symmetry with waves of fish in the aquarium and choice pieces of art; a commissioned Mel Briggs in the entry, a Chihuly discovered in Hawaii and a dramatic Steven DaLuz canvas above the dining console. She linked the gold leaf from the painting with an abstract Madison Lilly rug that’s under a massive glass coffee table in the living room, moored by a pair of 7-foot-long thundercloud gray velvet sofas.

“A decorator told me I wasn’t going to love everything that goes into the house,” says Erica, “but I thought, au contraire, I’m not going to populate my home with things I didn’t love, whether it was the flatware or the art.” Working with the architects, they also customized a massive black walnut dining table—which took eight men to assemble—grounding the space with sculptural dimension. Baker vases subtly highlight both planes.

Summing up the experience, Patrick says, “When you love everything in your home, you know you’ve done it right.”